Sept. 9, 2004
John P. "Jack" Rohan, the winningest men's basketball coach in Columbia University history, and one of the most revered figures in Lion athletic annals, has died.
Rohan was 72 when he passed away on August 9 in a nursing home in South Yarmouth, Mass., of complications from Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a multiple neuron inflammation with progressive muscular weakness leading to paralysis. He had been stricken with the disease in July, 2003.
Rohan had lived in Yarmouth Port, Mass., on Cape Cod, since retiring from Columbia in June of 1996. At the time of his retirement, he was the University's chairman of the department of physical education, a post he had held since 1974.
"We were very saddened to learn of Jack Rohan's passing," said Paul Fernandes, Columbia's interim director of athletics. "He was more than a long-time coach, he was an institution here at Columbia. Much of our basketball success during the last 40 years is a result of Jack's coaching and the foundations he created."
A basketball and baseball player at Columbia prior to his 1953 graduation, Rohan became the head men's basketball coach for the Lions in 1961 after a stint as freshman coach at NYU. He was selected national Coach of the Year for the 1967-68 season after leading Columbia to the Ivy League championship.
That team, one of the best in Columbia history, compiled a 23-5 record and finished the season ranked sixth in the nation. It was led by Jim McMillian and Dave Newmark, both of whom played professional basketball, and Heyward Dotson, an NBA and ABA draftee. Rohan's teams won 20 games in each of the next two seasons, and were ranked in to nation's top 20 both times.
Rohan resigned his coaching post in 1974 to become the tenured chair of the physical education department. He became the school's golf coach in 1976, but remained active in basketball as a much-sought after basketball camp lecturer and clinician, broadcaster, and writer. His in-depth analyses of NCAA Final Fours appeared annually in The New York Times.
In 1990 Rohan agreed to once again become head coach of the Lions. He coached for five years, leading the team to a 43-87 record, including a 16-10 record and second-place finish in the Ivy League in 1992-93. When he left the head coach's position, shortly after the conclusion of the 1995 season, he had compiled an overall record of 198-247. His games coached, 445, and victories both stand as Columbia career records.
A native of Bellerose, N.Y., Rohan participated in basketball and baseball at Columbia. He was a key reserve on the Lions' 1950-51 team, which finished the regular season undefeated at 21-0 and ranked third in the nation, before losing to Illinois in the first round of the NCAA Championships. He was graduated in 1953 with an A.B. in history, and received a master's from Columbia Teachers College in 1957. In 1993, he was the recipient of a Great Teacher Award from the Society of Columbia Graduates.
Rohan is survived by his wife, Barbara, two children, Christopher Rohan of Towson, Md., and Jennifer Rohan, who lives in Bergen County, New Jersey, and three grandchildren. Following a funeral on August 11, he was buried in Yarmouth Port.